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USA Handed 2018 SheBelieves Cup Title Via Own Goal vs. England

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2018

United States forward Alex Morgan (13) controls the ball in front of England defender Abby McManus (15) during the first half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

It was winner-take-all Wednesday night when the United States and England met in the 2018 SheBelieves Cup finale in Orlando, and the USWNT took home the trophy.

Both squads entered the final game tied atop the tournament leaderboard at 1-0-1. With England holding the edge in goal differential, the United States needed a victory to win its second SheBelieves Cup, having won the inaugural event back in 2016. A win or draw would give England its first title after a pair of third-place finishes.

Here's a look at the starting lineups the teams trotted out:

U.S. Soccer WNT @ussoccer_wnt

Winner takes all! 🏆 Meet our starting XI for the #SheBelievesCup finale. Lineup notes » https://t.co/DKXpeAbgfN https://t.co/nl0qIaLTxC

Lionesses @Lionesses

Here's the team that could secure @England the #SheBelievesCup! 🤞 https://t.co/u2MYXMdzK5

It was all United States in the first half, although the U.S. ladies had nothing to show for it heading into the locker room. The USWNT held a 62-38 edge in possession, with a few good runs early in the first half. Neither team had many quality looks early on, but Team USA turned on the pressure just before the break.

In the 43rd minute, the Americans had a dangerous cross from Megan Rapinoe that England keeper Karen Bardsley got poked away before it could get through to Carli Lloyd or Mallory Pugh:

U.S. Soccer WNT @ussoccer_wnt

Oh so close. @mPinoe puts one on goal but the 'keeper gets a hand on it. #SheBelievesCup // #USAvENG https://t.co/cBAG9E75GP

Moments later, Alex Morgan—who plays for the hometown Orlando Pride—was involved in a collision in the box, and the no-call did not sit well with the crowd. Perhaps the best scoring chance of the first half came from the 19-year-old Pugh, who worked to create an opening at the top of the box but just missed the net in the 45th minute.

Pugh didn't skip a beat coming out of the break, creating a strong chance in the opening minutes of the second half:

U.S. Soccer WNT @ussoccer_wnt

Relentless. @AbbyDahlkemper finds @MalPugh for another chance. #SheBelievesCup // #USAvENG https://t.co/xnKYG4P1vO

The United States finally broke through in the 58th minute...with some help from England:

U.S. Soccer WNT @ussoccer_wnt

We'll take that, thank you very much! The 🔴⚪️&🔵 has its lead! #SheBelievesCup // #USAvENG https://t.co/1EVgJjDxip

It may have been a lucky goal, but that's what happens when a team puts nonstop pressure on its opposition, as longtime USWNT defender Becky Sauerbrunn noted:

Becky Sauerbrunn @beckysauerbrunn

Yasssss!!! We were knocking at the door, you can’t give us too many opportunities before one little mistake allows that to happen.

The United States dominated possession and had numerous opportunities during the middle of the match. Eventually, it was rewarded.

England went into attack mode following the own goal, with a header that went off the post in the final minutes which nearly tied things up.

Becky Sauerbrunn @beckysauerbrunn

Sometimes you just have to praise the soccer gods.

Thanks to a strong defense highlighted by Crystal Dunn, the United States prevented the Lionesses from equalizing. 

Becky Sauerbrunn @beckysauerbrunn

This Dunn v. Parris matchup is fun. My money is on Crystal.

Becky Sauerbrunn @beckysauerbrunn

I don’t envy England right now. Chasing the game is exhausting. You go from defending for you life to attacking for your life.

In the end, a 1-0 final was enough for the USWNT to reclaim the SheBelieves Cup.

U.S. Soccer WNT @ussoccer_wnt

The #SheBelievesCup stays home! 🏆 Your #USWNT are 2018 champions! https://t.co/QMGIQuxvvu

U.S. Soccer WNT @ussoccer_wnt

Let the confetti rain down! 🎉 #SheBelievesCup champs for the second time. Raise it high, @CarliLloyd! https://t.co/x4BGH1rwQ2

Final SheBelieves Cup standings:

1. United States (2-0-1) 7 points

2. England (1-1-1) 4 points

3. France (1-1-1) 4 points

4. Germany (0-2-1) 1 point

After finishing last in the tournament last year, the United States responded with a statement this time around. Knocking off the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the world in a span of three games after a development year signals the USWNT is making strides.

Winning the 2018 SheBelieves Cup gets the year off on the right note as Team USA prepares for 2019 World Cup qualifying. 

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